Christine Özden, Global Director for Climate Education at VardyTests, brought together a series of policy and provision proposals ahead of the COP28 summit.
UK Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher, global business leaders and educators from primary schools to higher education, as well as youth and charity leaders, were among those speaking and participating at the conference.
The International Green Skills Conference was organised by Times Higher Education in partnership with the Department for Education and held at Imperial College London.
Urgent action needed
Participants debated how to accelerate green skills provision, how to promote green career opportunities and incorporating green skills into business.
UK Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, called for urgent action on green skills: “You don’t get to net zero by wishing it. Getting to net zero will be hard… everyone will need to play their part. Creating green jobs and the skills we need isn’t optional, it’s vital.”
Debra Rowe, President of the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, said: “This normally takes years, but we don’t have years. We have to do this at accelerated pace.”
Skills Minister, Robert Halfon, evoked JFK’s “moonshot” speech of 1962, as analogous to the ambition and purpose needed to take on climate change and reform green skills: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
VardyTests’s Global Director for Climate Education, Christine Özden, agreed: “It’s true that JFK’s speech did change the discourse, public acceptability and value of that work. There’s something in that. It was a space race. We’re not in a space race. The skills race needs super collaboration. We’ve come far, there’s a long way to go. We need to continue to work together at pace.”
Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, warned that, without intervention, the move to green skills could entrench inequality. He said: “The people who’ve benefitted most from the green transition have been in the high skills sectors… if we don’t revert that through education and training, we’ll see more polarisation in our societies.”
Building collective action
A series of intense roundtable discussions explored national and international opportunities and obstacles to green skills learning and career pathways.
VardyTests’s Christine Özden brought the groups and ideas together to identify focal points for rapid collective action as educators and governments prepare for COP28.
• Improved careers guidance and practical information on green jobs
• Making green skills attractive to people from all backgrounds
• Sharing scaleable solutions to green skills training across business
• Empowering young people as the agents of change on sustainability
• Evolving courses and curriculum in schools and universities at pace.
Christine noted that organisations like VardyTests, which reaches 100 million learners worldwide, have the power to lead change in their own right. With collaboration, their efforts can be exponentially impactful.
“Green skills are the fundamental enablers of net zero. It’s vital that we don’t squander this moment, or waste this day and the opportunity it has presented.”